Ski hills in the Okanagan are mixed on what the impact will be of Greyhound’s decision to abandon its routes in Western Canada.
The biggest ski hill in the Valley, though, says no bus service to Kelowna will definitely be affecting the bottom line.
“The most significant (impact) will be the under-25 (crowd) at the resort,” Michael J. Ballingall, senior vice president at Big White Ski Resort, told Global Okanagan on Tuesday.
According to Ballingall, an under-25 skier can purchase a bus pass to Kelowna for approximately $45 one way. Then, after arriving at the Greyhound bus depot, “they normally go on Facebook and they find a rideshare. They get up the mountain and they have a Biggie card, so they have a cheap lift ticket and they stay at the youth hostel for $20 a night. So, for $400 or $500, they’ve had a week’s vacation at Big White.”
Ballingall said other resorts in the Okanagan probably have the same thing because they also have youth hostels.
“For us, we also get a skier or snowboarder that does a ski safari using Greyhound,” added Ballingall. “Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, Golden, Kimberley, Fernie, Nelson, that whole Kootenay-Okanagan route you can get around on Greyhound.
“We have found that has been popular with Europeans, it’s been popular with kids from the prairies. If they don’t have a vehicle, that’s sort of how they’ve gotten around to the different resorts. They stay in the youth hostels or they stay on mountain. University kids also use it from time to time.”
Ballingall also stated Greyhound is an amazing distribution system for deliveries of Big White’s soft goods.
“There’s a lot of companies that use couriers, but couriers don’t deliver to the mountain. I’m not saying that Greyhound does either, but we send 27 shuttles buses to the airport every day, and there’s a triangle shuttle service. It goes airport, Greyhound, mountain, then mountain, airport, Greyhound down. There’s always a pick-up point for our shuttle buses at the Greyhound station. So if we’re shipping something from Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary, we usually get next-day service where our shuttle buses can pick it up instead of waiting a couple of days for a courier system to bring it up through a third party.
“That’s going to throw quite a big spanner in the works for us because we’re there multiple times every day.”
Meanwhile, near Penticton, Apex Alpine says Greyhound’s decision will be small. Management at the hill says most people who visit Apex use private vehicles, and that only a very small percentage use Greyhound to bus to Penticton, then hop on a shuttle or hail a taxi to the hill.
On Tuesday, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce said Monday’s decision by Greyhound was stunning.
“At the Kelowna Chamber, we were as surprised as anyone when we heard the announcement,” said KCC past president Tom Dyas. “We know that transportation linkages between Kelowna and surrounding communities is critical for both those living in smaller communities that access services here and many businesses that count on customers from the region to drive their business.
“This, of course, isn`t just a local or regional issue; this is impacting communities across the country and the federal government has a role to play here in ensuring safe reliable transportation is available no matter where you live in this country. Our MP`s need to understand inter-community bus service is as important to our economy and community sustainability as any other mode of transportation particularly in those communities where there is no other option.”
Dyas added “first and foremost, the loss of more than 400 jobs is a concern, though that will likely be felt more in the smaller communities around us. But as a regional centre, we know there will also be an impact here. It is another sign of the growing rural-urban divide and as a major regional centre that is connected to those living in the many small communities around us, the loss of this service should be a concern to our community leaders.”